For leaders, crises can come in many shapes and sizes. Things like natural disasters that disrupt operations, dramatic regulatory changes that upend the way you do business, even acts of violence that sadly occur too often in workplaces. To lead means being ready to lead in times of extreme difficulty and rapid change. So how can you work on Staying Resilient in Times of Crisis?
One of the key challenges leaders must face when dealing with crisis is maintaining their own mood, productivity and focus. All while supporting their teams in doing the same. This double-whammy can feel exhausting, and for the unaware, can cause serious problems in how the leader, team and organization respond to the situation.
The key to staying at your best when faced with crisis is maintaining your own resilience. Merriam-Webster defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”. In normal times, resilience is important. It can lower your stress, increase your satisfaction with your work and life, and improve the quality of your relationships. But in times of crisis, personal resilience is crucial, especially for leaders.
The challenge is that resilience (like confidence and other leadership competencies) can feel like one of those traits handed out to a lucky few at birth. The exciting news is that isn’t true. Resilience is a skill. It is a habit or pattern of thinking that can be strengthened over time.
So, how do you get started on building your resilience? Here are three tips to try today.
Calm Your Mind.
Most of us have minds that run on autopilot. We are inundated with more information that we can handle in any given moment. We struggle to keep up, which leaves us feeling worn down, unfocused, and jittery. When facing difficulty or rapid change, these problems are only made worse by an increase in both the amount of information coming at us and the speed at which it arises. Add a little adrenaline to the mix, and our heads can become truly noisy places.
Resilient leaders know, however, that to face their most important challenges, they must find a way to calm their minds. That is why many of them are increasingly embracing mindfulness practices as a way to quiet the chatter in their heads. If you’re serious about leading, you must get serious about finding a way to calm your own mind for a period of time each day.
How you do that is a matter of personal preference. The truth is that you can bring mindfulness to almost any aspect of your life, from walking to cooking to brushing your teeth. The magic isn’t in what you’re doing, but in how you’re doing it. If you’re ready to get started there are any number of resources to help you. Apps like Headspace and Calm offer instruction and guided meditation for beginners, as well as reminders and accountability features to keep you on track. For those looking for a more in-depth explanation and structure might enjoy books like Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness or Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.
For many leaders, especially those under intense pressure, the most difficult thing to do is to take a break. But, research has clearly shown that brief breaks between periods of intense focus and activity are crucial to maintaining our focus, creativity, and stamina throughout the day. For most of us, our ideal period of productivity lasts no more than 90 minutes. After that, we get diminishing returns for the effort we put in.
Instead of forcing yourself to grind it out, buying into the lie that breaks are for the weak or the less busy, try stepping away instead. Do something that will reset your energy and focus. Take a walk around the building (or better yet, outside). Spend a few minutes stretching. Even drinking a glass of water can offer the little pause you need to come back to your work feeling more refreshed and creative.
Practice shifting your perspective.
Perspective is an amazingly powerful tool, but far too few of us use it effectively. Resilient leaders, however, have mastered the skill of shifting perspective so that they can maintain flexibility and creativity. They are able to step back and see any situation from a variety of angles. They can remove themselves from their own initial, emotional reaction. Than, find ways to think about a situation that is productive and supportive. This doesn’t mean they shy away from the truth or adopt an air of naive positivity. But it does mean that they are able to show up in a calmer, more reasoned manner, regardless of the circumstances.
To get good at shifting your perspective, you must first adopt a sense of curiosity. Notice how you respond to challenges. What physical sensations do you experience? What thoughts circle through your head? Do you have specific fears or concerns that get triggered?
Ask yourself what part of what you are experiencing is valuable, supportive or productive. What parts are not supportive or productive? Then, ask what other possibilities are available that may challenge these parts of your perspective. Some of my clients find it useful to wonder what a particular role model, notable person, or spiritual figure would think, feel or do in a similar situation. The point is not necessarily to adopt these new thoughts, but rather to realize they are available as possibilities.
Personal resilience is a must-have for leaders, especially those in the midst of extreme difficulty or rapid change. Building these practices into your daily routine will not only help you manage stress more effectively, it will give you the productivity boost and focus you need to find creative and effective solutions to the challenges you face. Staying Resilient in Times of Crisis is an investment worth making today.